Insulation Complete

Now that work has moved indoors, the weekend weather has improved dramatically ;).  This weekend was no exception and I was able to get a ton of stuff accomplished.


Bright and early Saturday the building and electrical inspectors came to marvel at my tiny spectacle.  Actually, I think the building inspectors exact comment was “looks like it won’t be any trouble adding a couple of rooms to it”.  That comment and his signature is all that I needed to begin the next phase of construction.

The electrical inspector was happy with my wiring and signed off as well.  The neatness of my wiring and having a set of wiring diagrams seemed to smooth out the process.  He focused more on seeing that all the outlets were in the right places rather than the wiring itself.

Insulation Begins

The first step was to inspect every wall cavity for fasteners poking thru.  These fasteners are exposed to the outside and can “sweat” during cold months.  I cut them flush with a cut-off wheel and covered the stump with foam-in-a-can.  At the same time I filled in any gaps and cracks that seemed to need it.

I cut blocks of rigid foam and stuffed them behing every outlet and switch box.  Its tough to get fiberglass behind there and you typically end up with cold spots.  The foam blocks prevent this from happening.

My walls will be filled with R19 fiberglass, and the ceiling will have R38.  I am using unfaced insulation since the wall sheeting is air tight.  My walls with “breathe” inward towards the living space. and you don’t want an air barrier trapping moisture.

The Right Tools

Having the right tools will help make your insulation job go a whole lot faster be more comfortable.  Fiberglass insulation “sheds” little particles of fiberglass all over the place.  These fibers are itchy if they get on your skin and are not that healthy to breathe.

Start with clothing.  You want to cover up as much as you can.  I dressed in a long sleeve shirt, gloves, hat, and shorts.  Naturally, I wore a dust mask to keep from breathing in the fibers.  If I had to do it again, I would have bought a Tyvek suit they sell for painting.  I really hate fiberglass, but I’m too cheap to buy the alternatives.

For tools you need a good knife, a 4ft straight edge, and an 8ft straight edge.  The straight edges can just be pieces of strapping.  The knife can be any knife with a razor blade but honestly, typical utility or snap blade knives suck for insulation.  Before this build I used them, but never again.

I found a knife call the Superkut made by Vintool.  A long time ago in a galaxy far far away there was this guy named Vince who was an insulation contractor.  Vince thought that all the knives for cutting insulation sucked so he made his own.  It costs $25 and is sold at or at Amazon.  It kind looks home made but looks are deceiving.


The Vintool knife is the best 25 bucks I spent on this project!  I was making factory looking cuts in a single pass thru R38 insulation.  At one point during the day I left it downstairs and only had a utility knife on me and I needed to make a cut.  It was this point when I realized how bad utility knives suck at cutting thru insulation.  It’s a pretty specialized tool, but it’s not a ton of money, and it works really well.

Another tool you will want to manufacture is an outlet cutting template.  Take a piece of scrap plywood about 10 inches wide by 18 inches tall.  Cut a square notch out of it in the exact location of your outlet boxes.  Make the notch about 1/2 inch smaller than the box.  You simply line this template against the edges of the insulation, press down firmly, and cut the notch out.


I set up a piece of plywood as a work surface and made some marks corresponding to the lengths I would need to cut.  The pro’s cut insulation up on the spot against the wall…I am not a pro and prefer to measure and cut as needed.

The process I used was to cut a piece to the height of my wall plus one inch.  If it needed to be trimmed lengthwise I added an inch to the actual width and used an 8ft length of strapping as a straight edge to trim the sheet.

It seems fairly easy to “hide” 1 to 1.5 inches in the bay without having it bunch up on you.  You want the bay completely filled without bunching up as this decreases the R value.

When you encounter wires, you simply split the insulation and place half of the insulation behind and half in front.  Switch boxes I used the vintool to cut them out on the spot.  You just sort of compress the insulation and feel for the box edges and make some slices.

Saturday I was able to install all 6 rolls on the walls by days end.  Sunday I went to the building center and picked up 6 packages of R38 for the ceiling and had them installed well before the day ended.  All totalled, I would estimate the insulation took about 10 hours to install.

Whats Next?

After work this week I will install sheetrock around the windows and doors.  I also have some last-minute wires to run for the phone, speakers, etc.  Next weekend, Tim and I will begin hanging sheetrock after the building inspector comes by to sign off on my insulation.

Windows and Doors


This weekend I completed the installation of windows and doors on the Bodega.  I even have a front door key for my key chain!

Window Installation

Here is a flashing diagram to give you a rough idea what we need to do:


You will need some self adhesive window flashing material for this job.  I used Grace Vycor in 9, 6, and 4 inch sizes to install my windows.  You will also need a tube of goo to seal behind the window, I like the Lexel product but anything will work.  Some composite shims and a strip of composite (plastic) material 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick by an inch wide is needed to a backstop.

Under normal circumstances water leaks into your window.  This water will collect in the cavity under the window.  You must install a “drain pan” to gather this water and let it drain away and/or evaporate without rotting the wood.

The First part of the “drain pan” is the backer which makes a little dam to prevent water from flowing into the house.  This piece is applied across the width of the rough window sill about 4.5 inches back but will vary depending on the thickness of your window.  On top of the backer you will install a 9 inch piece of vycor window flashing.  You want to form this into a tray that will capture all the water.  You need to pay special attention to the corners as these are difficult to form.  I cut several small strips for my corners, but there are products that allow you to form the pan in one single piece.  There are also PVC molded drain pans available.


Once the drain pan is installed I wrapped 6 inch vycor flashing around each side and the top.  This is not really needed, however I wanted to seal the air gap between the foam insulation and the plywood window boxes.  Also its important to note that the Lexel sealant I use contains solvents which can “eat” rigid foam.  I apply the sealant to the vycor rather than the foam.

When you are ready to install the window you need to insert 2 composite shims on the drain pan to hold the window off the bottom of the window opening.  You also need to apply a thick bead or sealant to the top and sides of the window opening.  DONT EVER apply sealant to the bottom.  You want any water collected in the drain pan to drain out the bottom of the window.  If you seal up the bottom who knows what will be growing in there in six months!

The next step is to place the window unit into the opening.  My windows are very small and were 100% square when installed.  I had to insert a shim or two on a bottom corner to level the unit otherwise they just dropped in and were perfect.  I attached the metal window tabs to the edges of the plywood boxes.  I will install shims on all sides and install trim screws thru the window frame into the window boxes for additional support.  Larger windows may require more robust mounting than mine.  After shimming, I will apply spray foam to the gap between the window box and window unit.  At that point it’s not coming out ever except with a sawsall.




I installed the doors exactly the same as the windows but had to do quite a bit more shimming to make the doors work properly.  The front door is very “sticky” on the bottom as the adjustable wiper seems to just be tight.  The back door works very nicely with just a small amount of resistance on the bottom.  Overall I am 100% not impressed with the doors I bought.  I only paid about $250 per door and maybe its just a case of getting what I paid for.  The doors are flexible and just don’t seem that solid.  I will be sure to install the trim in a manner that makes door replacement easy since I think its likely to happen.


Next steps

I still need to shim and insulate the windows.  There is also a number of odds and ends that need to be taken care of to complete the exterior installation.  Next weekend I will complete these and add floor joists to the front porch so I can begin framing it.

Insulation Nearing Completion

Another weekend of Bodega building is in the books and I have a few things to share.  I have been taking it easy the past weeks to recover from the roofing ordeal.  I went to a couple of gun shows, and to the range to get in some bang therapy.  Now I’m back at it again…just in time for arctic weather ;).

At this point I have three sides insulated with 4 inch foam.  I even installed one window to get my process down.  I’m posting a video tour so you can see the progress in person.  Just ignore my babbling…I just started shooting and thought very little about what I was going to say:


I completed the left side of the house and the upper section of the end which involved quite a bit of cutting.  The straight sections make use of the tongue and groove built into the foam product I am using.  The upper triangle section wound up with a lot of pieces with no tongue and groove.  For these pieces I made them a nice tight fit and applied a liberal amount of foam from the foam gun.  naturally, the seams are taped using Zip tape.

The pro-pak foam I am using has not worked very well in cold temps.  I had to run the heater and heat the cans to make them flow very well.  When warm they work great.


The corners are a bit tricky since you need to get the 8 inch headlok fasteners into studs and there is 4 inches of foam in the way.  I took 1×8 pine boards and made corners (I said 2×8 in the video that is wrong).  I wished I could have found a lesser grade of pine as this stuff cost me an arm and a leg but sometime time is worth more than money.


USing gorilla glue and epoxy coated screws I glued and screwed the boards together.  The corners were then attached using 8 inch headlok fasteners.  You can see from the pics that the headloks are pretty far from the corners.  These corners will allow me to attach the finish corner trim and leave a place to nail siding on.


I will do an entire post with pics on the window install.  I just wanted to do one so I could refine the technique.  There is an error on the one I installed (DO NOT COPY WHAT I DID) you will see that I got carried away with the Vycor flashing and put a piece on the bottom…this is incorrect and I will be removing it.



From my window installing session I learned that its better to have 2 people.  At one point the wind came along and knocked the window out of its opening almost taking out Ajax in the process.  Fortunately for Ajax and the window, neither were injured.  All the shipping hardware came dislodged which made the window a bit more difficult to install.

Wrap Up

This week we’re expected to get bitter cold and snow.  Hopefully the really cold weather will pass by next weekend so I can install the windows.  I’m also going door shopping this week, hope to find something rejected or returned to save some cash.


Exterior Insulation


Been taking a bit of time off to clear my head after getting the roof on.  I’ve just been puttering around with the wall insulation and cleaning up the job site.


Since I have 4 inches of insulation going on the walls, the window installation is a bit tricky.  The openings are framed to be 1.5 inches larger than the required rough opening called for by the window manufacturer.  This 1.5 inches get occupied with a box made from 3/4 plywood that sticks out 4 inches past the window opening.

photo 1

You install insulation around this opening and the window will attach over the foam.  I will post pics with the details of the window install since its going to be complicated.  I have selected 24×38 inch windows for my project….a bit small, but they are cheap ($127), energy efficient, and in stock at Lowes.


The doors get a similar treatment as the windows except 3/4 plywood is not strong enough IMO.  So I built a frame from 2x material and attached it using headlock fasteners to the door opening.

photo 2

I am not 100% sure how the door and trim will be attached, but its likely that the door will be installed flush with the inside of the wall.  The door frame will be extended to fill the width of the wall cavity.  The storm door will cover the opening on the outside.  I will have nearly 9 inches of space between my storm door and main door….nice for package deliveries I guess.


It is very important to maintain the integrity of the air sealing applied to the walls.  I used a generous amount of Lexel caulking around the window and door boxes.  I also applied the remainder of the Grace Ice and Water that I had left to the outside of each box.  When I ran out of that, I switched over to 6 inch Grace Vycor plus window sealing tape.

I highly recommend the Grace Vycor plus.  It sticks well even in freezing temps and is easier to form compared to the ice and water material.

Working With Foam

Cutting foam sheets can be done with any kind of saw but it makes an awful mess!  Think foam sawdust that sticks to everything and gets everywhere.  I found this knife at Lowes:


Using a straight edge and this knife locked with about 3 inches of the blade sticking out I was able to make nice clean cuts without any mess at all.  There are two models of this knife (large and small).  I found that the small version does a better job since the blade is thinner.  I think the secret to success is the thinnest longest blade you can find.  You will also need some spares as the foam does wear out the edge fairly quick.

Holding the foam in place

Before you start it’s really important to mark the studs so you can screw into them with your strapping.  I mark the tops of each stud with a 2 inch screw from the inside.  Then I go to the outside with a sharpie marker and hammer to mark the spot and hammer the screw back in.
I am applying 2 layers of 2 inch thick foam.  The first layer you can tack in place with 3 inch roofing nails.  Be warned:  the roofing nails will “sweat” since they are on the cold side.  Before you insulate inside, you need to cut them flush and put a dab of foam on them.  If you go nuts with them this will become a lot of work later on.  You only need one nail per sheet…just to hold it in place.

photo 3

The second layer you can use a piece of scrap plywood (see triangles in pics) with a 6 inch screw to hold the sheets together.  When you have enough sheets on, tape the seams and screw your strapping on.  I use five 8 inch headlok fasteners per 8ft of strapping.  The building gods recommend every 2 feet for most normal wooded siding (heavier siding needs more).  In case you are wondering, the siding will attach directly to the strapping leaving a 3/4 inch air gap.

photo 4

photo 5
By Sunday afternoon I had the left side and the lower section of the back completed.  I started on the right side, but ran out of vycor plus and called it a day.  Insulation goes pretty fast and i’m hoping to get the right side finished during this week after work.

Roof Insulation…check!


Last night I finished up all the bits and pieces needed to complete the roof insulation work.  What you see in the pic is 5 of the 8 layers completed.  Here’s a cross-section of what the completed roof will look like:

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 4.08.40 PMAs you can see we still have the final layer of OSB, felt paper, and shingles to go.  I found an interesting way that one fellow used to hoist his sheating up to the roof I may try something similar.

Have a nice weekend!

The Weather is Starting to Suck


This weekend the weather was lousy for working up on the roof.  Saturday there was a 1/2 inch dusting of snow frozen to everything.  During the day it all melted and I was hopeful to get something accomplished on Sunday.  Unfortunately, Sunday began below freezing with a bit of freezing rain.  For the first time since construction begain I did no work on the house :(.

The past two days its been unseasonably warm so I took afternoons off to finish up the insulation on the other side of the house.  Last night about 8PM I finished up.  Tim also came over to help me put the tarp over the place to help keep the rain off of it.

This weekend we plan to install the final layer of sheating which will be a royal pain in the ass I expect.  Once the sheating is on I will install felt paper, drip edge, ridge vent, and shingles.  I also need to figure out where the wood stove chimney and plumbing vent will be installed.

Rigid Installation Lessons Learned


+ As I previously posted the length of fasteners I originally selected was 100% wrong!  Having installed 500SF +/- of roof insulation I can say that 8 inch fasteners are the way to go when installing 4 inches of foam.

+ Keeping track of the location of your joists is critical.  The method I used of driving screws from the inside to mark the joist locations works perfectly.  I marked each joist with sharpie marker and was able to transfer those marks onto the insulation.

+ Hitting joists with a 8 inch fastener is tricky!  I only had one or two 100% misses but about 40% partial misses where the fastener entered the joist about 1/4 inch from the edge and poked out the side.  It it possible to adjust the entry point of the fastener by an inch or more by leaning the top of the screw in the direction you want to go.  Having a helper watch from inside is invaluable (unless you like climbing ladders a million times….ask me how I know).

+ Stuff attached thru insulation is not exact.  The squishy nature of insulation makes can make it look like something wont line up but with a bit of patience and a hammer you can make it line up.  A strategically driven headlok fastener can also help in some cases.

+ Get a can of foam or a foam gun.  There will be places where the gap is larger than you like or you will have a damaged corner.  Filling in the gap with foam is fast and easy.  You are spending $18 per sheet why put up with gaps between sheets.

+ Working on the roof sucks.  Get staging, ladders, a safety harness and work safely.  One slip can mess you up badly!  If the roof is icy or snow take the day off its not worth getting messed up.

Thanksgiving Break Work Party

Over the Thanksgiving break Tim and I worked long and hard trying to get the roof completed.  Everything we did took four times longer than expected and while we managed to make good progress, there still is not a roof on the Bodega.  The end is in sight however.


The soffits are made from 3/4 plywood with 2×4’s screwed to them.  They were constructed in 8 foot lengths and screwed on to the building with 8 inch headlok fasteners.  They are a bit cantilevered since there is only foam behind them.  The strapping holding on the foam will join up and form a brace that prevents them from bowing under load. When the final layer of roof sheeting is screwed on it will provide additional support.  Even without the strapping, I was able to sit on them without any serious bowing.

To trim the soffits to length, we used the front and back overhangs as a guide.  A string was tied between the front and back ans we used it as a trimming guide.  As part of this process we compared the left to right overhang to see how even we are.  It turns out that the left side has 1/2 inch less overhang than the right side.  I suppose we could have extended one side but I doubt anyone will notice 1/2 inch difference…it did not seem worth the trouble.


With the soffits installed, we began the task of installing insulation.  The overhangs for the peak seemed to have settled and we actually had to unbolt one to get the foam under it (another hour wasted on the unexpected).  With the peak on, the rest of the insulation went as expected.  I used 3 inch wide Zip tape to seal the seams between sheets.

To secure the foam to the roof, I used 1×4 strapping with headlok fasteners.  To prepare the strapping, I used a 3/4 inch spade bit to provide a counterbore for the head of the fastener.  Then I drilled out the center with a 1/4 inch drill bit (you don’t want this to split).  Fasteners were placed every 24 inches with the ones on the edge being set in 6 inches.
Installing the strapping is tricky because you must get the fastener into the roof joists.  Unfortunately, the roof is covered in Ice and Water shield so there is no way to see where the joists are.  A stud finder is a useless POS when dealing with Ice and Water covered sheating.  The solution Tim and I devised (might have actually been Tim’s idea first) was to drive in a short drywall screw from the inside on either side of the joist.  On the roof side the midpoint between the screws is the joist.  You then mark the spot and keep transferring it to the insulation sheets as you install them.

As the strapping was installed, Tim watched from the inside and told me which way to move the fasteners that had missed.  On a miss all that is need is to lean the fastener in the direction you need to go. By “leaning” the fastener you can adjust its position by an inch and sometimes over an inch.


Originally I planned to used 6 inch deck style screws.  As we worked with them, it became clear that 6 inches was not enough to get a good hold in the wood.  I scanned the internet for a source of 8 inch deck screws and came up empty.  It seems that 6 inches is the longest “deck style” screw you can buy.  I made the executive decision to use Headlok fasteners instead (I really like them).

Naturally it was 2 days before the holiday and I needed to find someone who could ship them in fast.  A place in WI had them and could ship in time but it was going to cost me $480.  Before I hit the “place order” button I did a quick search on Amazon and hit pay dirt.  There was a supplier with two buckets of 250 pcs for $136 with Amazon Prime Shipping!  For $290 including expedited shipping I had 40 pounds of 8 inch headlock fasteners on my doorstep the next day!  My Amazon Prime account costs me $79 per year and saved me over 100 bucks on shipping for this one order….worth every penny!

The 8 inch fasteners work fantastic for attaching 4 inches of foam.  If I were doing 2 inches of foam the 6 inch fasteners would have been fine….live and learn.  I now have 2 cans of gold colored really long deck screws as a memorial to this project.

Wrap Up

The soffits are on and one side is fully insulated.  I have a small amount of trim work to do on that side and it will be ready for sheating.  The other side still needs insulation but the first tier was installed when I did the peak so it should go fairly quick.

Next weekend I hope to get that side insulated and trimmed.  Then we begin sheating which I think will take another weekend day to complete.  Then I’m ready for felt paper and shingles.  This roof is taking forever!!!

Air Barrier Installation

The outside of the Bodega needs to be covered with a barrier that will keep air from leaking in or out.  Additionally this barrier should be capable of shedding any water that manages to get past the siding and insulation.  The preferred product for this application is an ice and water shield used for roofing.  I chose the Grace product but there are others that are cheaper but are not a highly regarded as the Grace product.

I had managed to wrangle up some additional help on Saturday since much of the days activities were up high and it really helps to have support from the ground.  We started by removing all the roof jacks but still leaving the nails in place so they could be easily reinstalled.

We began the first row so that half the sheet was on the wall and half on the roof.  The Grace product has a little wire embedded called a “rip cord”.  This wire allows you to peel off half of the release paper and leave the other half still stuck to the sheet.  The temps on Sat while warm, were still not warm enough to have the material stick on its own.  It was a bit tacky, but not sticky.  As the day went on, I realized that this material is easier to work when it’s not sticking to itself and everything else.  As a test we places a few pieces in front of the heater and they became pretty difficult to manage.

Saturday end of day progress

The safety hook up close

Making it Stick

My process for installing the underlayment was to use a couple staples near the top of the sheet and get it positioned in the correct location.  I then went back with a paint striping heat gun and warmed up the edges which caused them to become sticky.  Kind of a “stick it in place” operation.

For the walls we used a similar approach as the roof but instead of the heat gun, we used the 60,000 BTU propane powered jet heater.  I picked up the heater and directly heated the underlayment while an assistant used a stiff broom to “squish” the underlayment to the wall.  We melted the bristles of the broom, but otherwise it worked very well.  The neighbor stopped by to see me holding a huge ass jet heater over my head as we worked on the third tier of air barrier….he thought it was a pretty funny sight (don’t try this at home I guess).

Inside shot…still need to trim air barrier around windows and doors

Overall it took about 18 hours of labor over 3 days to install the air barrier.  I wish things were going faster, but anything up on the roof seems to take forever.  Work on the walls did seem to go pretty quickly.

Next weekend the goal is to apply four inches of rigid foam to the roof and possibly the final layer of sheeting.  The following week will be the Thanksgiving break when I hope to be putting on shingles.  Once the shingles are on the pressure is off and I can work at whatever pace I want.